With the cowardly vote of 43 GOP Senators to not impeach Donald Trump for one of the greatest political offenses in the history of our republic, the GOP will be using the words “acquit,” “exonerate,” and “not guilty” or even “innocence” on repeat.
None of the those legal terms apply. Impeachment is not a criminal — or even a civil — fact-finding tribunal. The jurors are not impartial, not sequestered, not disinterested, not even PRESENT for some of the proceeding. They are not finders of fact; they are merely votes.
The Senate did NOT return a “not guilty” verdict. They simply decided, for their own self-interested political reasons, not to impeach Trump. That is NOT a comment on the evidence against Trump. It is a comment on the personal characters of the individual Senators, and the utter failure of representative government.
Why did the Founders place trial of impeachments in the hands of the Senate and not a standard randomly determined jury of peers as they did nearly EVERY criminal and more serious civil case? Because they were naive and short-sighted. They never seriously considered the power of faction — hell, they didn’t even anticipate the formation of PARTIES and had to re-jigger the election of the Executive branch repeatedly through the first few elections.
The Founders foolishly believed that the Senate would consist of all the “best” gentlemen of the nation, appointed by the state legislatures, and having the requisite honor and duty toward the nation to make such weighty decisions on the facts and a keen interest of protecting the constitutional order. They never conceived that Senators would put their own short-term political interests above the destiny and stability of the nation itself. In short, they were idealistic twits proven to be deeply and tragically wrong by history.
Impeachment has proven over and over that it does not work very well to check an out-of-control President. There may be some marginal effects and lucky successes (the political ruin of Andrew Johnson, the resignation of Richard Nixon), but as a means of checking the sort of insurrection against the government we just experienced, the Founders’ plan is an utter failure. Impeachment has been trivialized and abused for partisan advantage (ask Bill Clinton…), and intentionally discredited by that overuse. I fear it is now essentially a dead letter in our Constitution.
But Trump will not “get away” with anything. He’s avoided impeachment again, but he will not escape accountability through the courts at the hands of civil and criminal juries. Not to mention the opinion and considered judgment of the people and history, for whatever that might be worth.
Impeachment failure does not preclude those coming legal processes. And they WILL be coming. Oh, Trump’s moronic attorneys will argue “double jeopardy” when the indictments and civil suits fly, but they will be as widely panned and laughed out of court as his claims of “lack of jurisdiction” and “First Amendment protections” were in this impeachment. He will fail… and he will fall. Hard.
Informed observers always expected that impeachment would fail, but success was not the point. The historical record and the demands of conscience were the point. Democrats, not knowing what the best thing to do politically was, did what one should always do when faced with the political unknown: they did the RIGHT thing, and damned the consequences.
Our job now is to push back against the fascist apologists for Trump. Do not let them claim that this impeachment PROVES anything (other than there are 43 wretched cowards in the Senate…). Push back on such claims wherever you see them.
Don’t let them create a conventional wisdom that comeuppance for Trump’s Rebellion is over. Not by a fucking mile. We will make every single one of these terrorists pay for the grave damage they’ve done to our nation. We will not rest until they are all in jail, disgraced, powerless, bankrupt, and suffer the de facto civic death that Trump and all his enablers so richly deserve. Our freedom and our nation’s future demands nothing less.
The next step that we must DEMAND is that our representatives in Congress disqualify Trump under the 14th Amendment from ever running for public office again.
Don’t despair: get to work. We’ve only begun the fight to save our republic from fascist authoritarianism.